India’s first-ever contemporary sculpture park has launched its second edition. The not-for-profit project, inaugurated in December 2017, transformed the Madhavendra Palace in Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur, into an expansive sculpture gallery. The sculptures are displayed throughout the majestic rooms and grand courtyards of the 18th-century fortress, which provides the works of leading Indian and international artists with a monumental backdrop.
Curated by Peter Nagy, director of Nature Morte in New Delhi, the 2019 edition of the Sculpture Park features artworks by 23 artists including Harold Ancart (Belgium), Hemali Bhuta (India), Lynn Chadwick (United Kingdom), Tanya Goel (India), Vikram Goyal (India), Michael Joo (United States), Mark Prime (UK), Ayesha Singh (India), Chrysanne Stathacos (Canada), L.N. Tallur (India), Asim Waqif (India), and Sebastiano Mauri (Italy) among others. More than half of the participating artists come from India.
“For most of my career as a gallerist and curator, I have been trying to break away from the white-box exhibition space,” said Nagy in a statement sent to Hyperallergic. “With this project, I am able to indulge my passions for art, architecture, and decor into a marvelous synthesis of the past and the present.”
Several of the installations are site-specific. The largest among them is British artist Richard Long’s “River of Stones” (2018), which snakes through the main courtyard of the palace. Long is known for using traditional material like stones, mud, and water to articulate movement through space in his works. This installation is created from local red sandstone sourced from the nearby Aravalli mountains.
Other works discuss political and economic issues relating to India’s past and present. In “Gradients on Modernist Fragments” (2018), Indian artist Tanya Goel’s paints over New Delhi demolition debris to create colorful sculptural paintings. Over the last decade, ambitious modernist complexes built in New Delhi in the 1940s are being demolished and redeveloped to make way for new exclusive real-estate projects. Geol abstracts the rubble of the old buildings to remember the city in which she lived as a child.
Another work discussing architectural shifts in New Delhi’s cityscape is Asim Waqif’s “Municipal Demolition” (2016). In this work, the artist has printed an image of an illegal building that was partially destroyed by the local government on aluminum sheets wrapped around an upended tree trunk.
Ayesha Singh visually overlays the arched hallways of the palace with architectural sculptures that borrow from Gothic, Indo-Saracenic, Victorian, Mughal, sacred Hindu, and Brutalist architectural styles found in India and the UK. Her two sculptures, “Hybrid Drawings” (1) and (2) from 2018, investigate evidence of colonialism and social hierarchy embedded in the ornamentation, design, and materials of architectural facades in India.
Italian-Argentinian artist Sebastiano Mauri’s “Aliens” (2018) features a set of glass vitrines inhabited with fairytale-like figurines set against forest backdrops. Through these otherworldly characters, Mauri discusses otherness in a world afflicted with ideological divisions.
Reena Saini Kallat’s “Chorus” (2017) is a piece modeled off pre-radar listening devices used during World War II. To subvert the original purpose of the device, which was intercepting enemy aircraft, the installation instead plays recordings of national birds of various border-sharing countries. Indian peacocks are heard singing along Pakistani chukars, and Palestinian sunbirds chirp with Israeli hoopoes in unison.
Five large colored mirrors installed on a round table reflect the outdoors through a skylight at the palace’s Maharaja suite. Chrysanne Stathacos’s work, entitled “Five Mirrors of the World” (2018), refers to astronomical diagrams depicted in Tibetan thangkas. The five mirrors — surrounded by roses, hand-printed hair cloth, and Bodhi leaves — represent different aspects of life: energy; existence; personality; emotional landscape; and the way in which we relate to others and to our world.
In another room, Mahbubur Rahman’s “Transformation” (2018) presents a life-size half-human and half-buffalo creature made of stainless steel. Informed by the play Nuruldiner Sarajiban by Bangladeshi writer Syed Shamsul Haq, Rahman uses the sculpture to narrate an episode from colonial Bangladesh, where rebelling farmers were stripped off their property including the buffalo that plowed their fields.
These are just a few of the remarkable works on display in this large and impressive survey. The public seems to agree. The project, a partnership between the Government of Rajasthan and Saat Saath Arts, has brought a 37% increase in visitors to Nahargarh Fort since its inauguration in 2017.
The Sculpture Park’s second edition will run through November 1, 2019, at Krishna Nagar, Brahampuri, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302007, India.